So the two of you decide that you both want to dissolve your marital partnership. You have a home, some investments, retirement accounts, some credit card debt, two kids and a dog. You agree that you want to divide all of your assets and debts equally, share custody of your kids, and you even agree on who gets the dog. So what do you do next? You drive over to the Barnstable Probate and Family Court and you tell the clerk at the counter that you'd like the forms to file for divorce. She politely hands you a joint petition for divorce, an affidavit of irretrievable breakdown, some statistical forms, financial statements, child support guidelines and a bunch of other papers. You think to yourselves, "How hard can this be? All we have to do is fill out these forms." Then she smiles and says, "fill out these forms and return them along with a signed, notarized separation agreement." Your jaws drop to the floor. "A what?" you ask. "Where's the form for that?" "Oh, there is no form for that." And suddenly your plans to do your own divorce are shattered. You go home and do a google search for a separation agreement form but your search brings up nothing but a bunch of companies that want to sell you a computer generated, one-size-fits-all-50-states document.
As it turns out, the separation agreement is the single most important part of your divorce. It is an agreement setting forth all of your rights and responsibilities going forward. It spells out how you will divide your assets and debts, whether there will be child support or alimony paid, and what your parenting plan will be. It will, if approved by the court, become the court's Judgment of Divorce. In other words, you are writing a court order for the judge to sign. It must include all of the provisions that the court would have had to rule upon if your divorce had gone to trial. It is critical that the agreement be drafted by a professional for several reasons. First, it is enforceable by the court’s contempt powers and violations can be punishable by penalties including jail time. If the agreement is at all vague or ambiguous though, the court cannot enforce it. Second, it cannot be changed because you left something out, changed your mind or it doesn’t say what you intended. Many parts of your agreement can never be changed; others can only be altered if there is a substantial change in circumstances.
So how do you get this properly worded, comprehensive agreement to include in your divorce filing? It doesn’t make sense to hire two lawyers when neither of you is contesting the divorce, nor does it make sense to go to a traditional mediator when you are already in agreement. Many divorce mediators are not even lawyers and are no better equipped to draft a binding legal contract than you are. Well, as it turns out, Cape Cod now has a new service called Cape Cod Uncontested Divorce and Mediation conveniently located at 100 Independence Drive in Hyannis right across from the mall. There you can find an experienced attorney who will help you hammer out the details of your asset division and parenting plan, calculate child support and/or alimony, and draft an agreement that will stand up in court for one low cost. They even offer evening and weekend appointment so you can meet at your convenience. If you choose, you can have the attorney prepare all of the other forms for you and go to court with you to ensure that your agreement is approved by the court and your divorce goes through without a hitch. What better way to begin the next chapter of your lives than with a smooth, efficient divorce process. Cape Cod Uncontested Divorce and Mediation is taking the “nasty” out of divorce. For more information, visit DIYDivorceCapeCod.com or call (508) 753-6778 to schedule your appointment.